Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary By Don McCabe, OFA President
On June 9, the Ontario government released its anticipated plan on how the province will address climate change. The Climate Change Action Plan lays the groundwork for how Ontario will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to meet reduction targets.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is encouraged that the government intends to make climate change planning a priority. There are a number of incentive programs and retrofit funding included in the plan, and while specific details are yet to be released, OFA expects farmers and rural Ontario to be given equal access to available funding.
OFA has held a consistent position on climate change. It is real and agriculture is part of the solution. We have long pushed for Ontario farmers to be acknowledged for the efforts they have already taken to reduce GHG emissions.
One of the more important aspects of the plan that OFA is pleased to see included, is the commitment to expand natural gas infrastructure in rural Ontario. An earlier leaked report suggested that natural gas was on the chopping block. OFA is relieved to see that the plan recognizes the importance of this efficient, reliable and low carbon energy source. When rural Ontario has access to affordable natural gas, our farms, businesses and rural communities are able to operate more competitively.
OFA has always supported research and innovation investments in the bioeconomy, which offer great economic opportunities for the agriculture sector while reducing our overall impact on the environment. We appreciate the commitment in the plan to ongoing research and development for low-carbon technology. Ontario farmers will be feedstock providers and investors to applications of some of these technologies including renewable natural gas, cellulosic sugar, biofuels, etc.
OFA is pleased to see a clear commitment from government in the action plan to create a carbon offset system. A carbon offset system is where agriculture can help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or offer permanent emission reductions from farm activities, and deliver made-in-Ontario credit compliance options for GHG emitting industries. OFA has been a strong advocate for including agriculture in the Cap and Trade system. The new Climate Change Action Plan provides another compelling case for agriculture’s contributions to be part of the climate change solution.
Ontario farmers consistently show their willingness to employ new technology to their businesses. Now, precision agriculture and the need for digital soil mapping is now more paramount than ever for Ontario farm future competitiveness. Through the application of precision ag with the equipment available in today’s farm machinery, combined with publicly available digital soil maps, improvement in carbon sequestration, and phosphorous and nitrogen management can be considered like never before possible. These actions are directly linked to help Ontario meet its targets. A recent announcement from Minister Leal on soil mapping for the areas of the province are a start to achieve the emerging needs of data required.
One area of the new plan that OFA is puzzled about is the emphasis on the electric vehicle industry. While the government has already committed to sizable investments in urban transportation, the drive to electrify our vehicles would seem to be in direct competition with the very public transportation system they are expanding.
With the new Climate Change Action Plan, the Ontario government has made a significant commitment to the health and wellbeing of the planet. OFA looks forward to the opportunities for the agriculture industry as the new plan rolls out across the province. To the Ontario government, the time to act is now in getting these programs designed and out for farmers to harvest real results.